MY TURN: A 'small town' by any other name is the same

By Tom Kirvan

During a recent interview with an out-state jurist, I was treated to a testament of the virtues of small town life. Our chat took place in the confines of the historic courthouse that will forever be the centerpiece of a quaint downtown.

Even though he had spent many of his formative years in the big city, this learned man of the legal profession yearned for a return to the simplicities of "Main Street" living where being isolated and insulated are one and the same.

As such, he trotted out a list of what small towns are all about. In other words, you know that you are in a small town when . . .

--You don't use your turn signal because everybody knows where you are going anyway.

--You were born on June 13th, and your family receives gifts from the local merchants because you were the first baby of the New Year.

--Third Street is on the edge of town.

--The editor and publisher of the newspaper carries a camera at all times.

--You dial a wrong number and talk for 15 minutes anyway.

--You can't walk for exercise because every car that passes offers you a ride.

--You get married, and the local paper devotes a quarter-page to the story.

--You drive into a ditch 5 miles from town, and word gets back to town before you do.

--You write a check on the wrong bank and it covers for you.

--You miss a Sunday at church and receive 10 get-well cards.

--Pickup trucks on Main Street outnumber cars 3 to 1.

--Someone asks how you feel and then listens to you.

As a newspaperman who toiled for years in a small town, I can add many other peculiarities to the above listing, but will dispense with the details at the risk of ending up on the wrong side of a libel suit.

Suffice to say, I think I've heard it all, to such a degree that one of my editorial colleagues here has threatened to write an unauthorized--and unadulterated--biography of my small town musings, some of which he observed as a cops and court reporter. From what I understand, the tentative title to this literary work of art is "Small Town Ink."

In our minds, it would be a best seller, especially if we could name names and divulge details about the sometimes unsavory and salacious side of small town living. It likely would be spun off into a reality show in which my playwright friend could take even more editorial license with the finished product.

However his intended project turns out, one thing that we--as seasoned journalists--will always agree is that sex sells, especially in a small town. As evidence, we can point to the dramatic jump in newsstand sales after we published a story about an attractive female police officer who was suspended from duty for being caught on camera--on a pool table--in what can best be described as a "compromising position" at a local retail establishment, otherwise known as a bar.

The story gained even more traction when it was revealed--and I use the term loosely--that her very willing accomplice was a respected member of the business community with considerable clout at the chamber of commerce. As I recall, the unused headline to the story was "Police officer conducts unauthorized 'undercover' operation."

Needless to say, it was the talk of the town, even though the police chief friend of mine did his level best to curtail the incessant chatter. Unfortunately for him, it was a lost cause, particularly after word leaked that a pirated version of the videotape was making its way around town faster than Typhoid Mary.

Now that is the reality of small town living.

Published: Fri, Apr 11, 2014

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